Away from the battlefield, the Kremlin continued to claim, repeatedly without evidence, that Kyiv was preparing to use a “dirty bomb”, a weapon that combines conventional explosives with radioactive materials – a charge that was denied by the United States and other Western nations.
US officials said Moscow’s allegations raised the risk that Russia itself might consider carrying out a radioactive attack, potentially as a pretext to justify a further escalation of the war amid its continued territorial setbacks.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom issued a similar warning, citing Russian military control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar. “Energoatom assumes that such actions by the occupants may indicate that they are preparing a terrorist act using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored at the ZNPP site,” the statement said.
Renewed fears of some sort of radiation attack have added to the ominous feeling that Putin’s war in Ukraine is growing even more deadly and dangerous as each side seeks to redraw the facts on the ground ahead of winter.
Ukraine has pushed for further territorial gains, while Russia this month launched a relentless bombing campaign against Ukraine’s energy system, using missiles and attack drones with the apparent aim of plunging the country in the cold and dark, and potentially to compensate for losses on the battlefield.
As Ukraine continued to advance, pro-Kremlin bloggers and military analysts on Tuesday confirmed further setbacks for Russian forces, including in Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost occupied region, where Russia has the strongest influence.
“The Ukrainian army has resumed its counter-offensive in the direction of Luhansk,” pro-Russian project WarGonzo said in its daily military update, adding that Ukrainian forces had taken control of a key highway between the towns. from Lugansk to Svatove and Kreminna.
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“Russian artillery is actively working on the left bank of the Zherebets river and is trying to stop the transfer of reinforcements to the enemy, but the situation is very difficult,” WarGonzo said.
In the Donetsk region, Wagner’s paramilitary force, controlled by St Petersburg businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin, appeared to be driven back from Bakhmut, where the mercenaries had spent weeks battering the town but making small gains . Military experts say there is little strategic value in seizing Bakhmut, but Prigozhin appears to see a chance to claim a political prize, as regular Russian military units lose ground in other combat areas .
Ukrainian forces have taken over a concrete plant on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War reported Monday. On Sunday, Prigozhin acknowledged the slowness of Wagner’s efforts, saying the mercenaries were only gaining “100-200 meters a day”.
“Our units constantly come up against the fiercest enemy resistance, and I see that the enemy is well prepared, motivated and working confidently and harmoniously,” Prigozhin said in a statement released by his company’s press service. restoration. “It doesn’t stop our fighters from advancing, but I can’t comment on how long it will take.”
In the southern region of Kherson, one of four that Moscow claimed to have annexed, Russian forces appeared to be preparing to defend the city of Kherson, amid speculation they would withdraw to the eastern side of the Dnieper, ceding crucial ground .
Ukraine’s military said in its operational update on Tuesday that Russian troops were setting up “defensive positions” along the east bank of the Dnieper and leaving small passages for a possible retreat from the west bank.
Speculation that Moscow is preparing to abandon Kherson has been circulating for weeks after Ukrainian forces made steady inroads south.
“I don’t know all the nuances and plans of the command, but I don’t rule out the surrender of Kherson because from a military point of view, its defense at this time could turn into a rout,” a military blogger said. popular Russian, who writes under the nickname Zapiski Veterana, wrote in a Telegram article. “But I think if the decision was made in Moscow to fight until victory, then there is nothing tragic about the surrender of Kherson because this war has been here for a long time.”
Moscow may not have a choice. “The Russian position in Upper Kherson Oblast is nevertheless probably untenable,” the Institute for the Study of War said.
Kremlin-based officials have forced residents to evacuate from the west bank of the Dnieper while claiming without evidence that Kyiv is planning attacks on the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, as well as the “dirty bomb” allegations.
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The United States, France and Britain have accused Moscow of using dirty bomb allegations as a pretext for escalation, and they have warned that Putin’s government will face further punitive measures from of the West.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin called Washington’s distrust of Russia’s claims “an unconscionable and frivolous approach.”
After a two-week bombing campaign, during which Moscow systematically targeted energy infrastructure, Kyiv is increasingly concerned that civilians are enduring a harsh winter. Ukrainian officials have spent the past several weeks pressuring European officials for more sophisticated weapons, particularly the advanced air defense systems needed to repel Russian air assaults.
The country also faces an urgent cash crunch, with officials raising questions about how Ukraine will secure the funding needed to keep services running for the brutal weeks and months ahead. An early-October World Bank projection suggested Ukraine’s economy would contract by 35% this year.
On Tuesday, Germany and the European Union hosted a conference in Berlin on reconstruction, although the conversation seemed particularly premature given the Russian attacks that are causing further destruction every day.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine needs about $38 billion in emergency economic aid for the next year alone. But as senior officials regularly trumpet EU support for Ukraine, questions arise about short-term and long-term follow-up.
Even as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has touted plans to help Ukraine until 2023, for example, EU officials acknowledge delays in the delivery to Kyiv of the roughly $9 billion dollars in loans pledged earlier this year.
US Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has pressed her European counterparts in recent weeks to increase financial aid to Kyiv and indirectly questioned the decision to offer loans rather than grants.
“We call on our partners and allies to join us in quickly disbursing their existing commitments to Ukraine and stepping up their efforts,” Yellen said this month. In a video address to a European Council summit in Brussels last week, Zelensky called out European leaders for not delivering much-needed economic aid quickly enough.
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“Thank you for the funds that have already been allocated,” Zelensky said. “But a decision has yet to be made on the remaining $6 billion of this package – which is badly needed this year.”
“It is in your power,” he continued, “to reach an agreement in principle today on the provision of this assistance to our State.”
With existing needs unmet, some wonder how to take EU promises of an effort of Marshall Plan proportions seriously. A Q&A released by Germany’s Group of Seven presidency ahead of Tuesday’s conference noted that the event would not include an “engagement segment”. Instead, the aim is to “underline that the international community is united and resolute in its support for Ukraine”.
In private conversations, some EU diplomats have raised questions about whether the bloc should allocate resources to rebuilding a country that is still very much at war, especially given the energy and economic crises in the world. ‘Europe.
As von der Leyen spoke in Berlin on Tuesday, the focus in Brussels was on efforts to find common ground among EU member states on emergency energy measures.